British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Standard procedures for habitat monitoring in British Columbia Bonner, Lynne 1994

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Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation STANDARD PROCEDURES FOR HABITAT MONITORING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA Lynne Bonner Habitat Management Specialist, Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, B.C. ABSTRACT The complexity of ecosystem management in British Columbia requires an adaptive approach of inventory, planning, monitoring, evaluating and revised planning. Monitoring is a key part of this process and resource managers need practical tools for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of management practices such as wildlife habitat enhancement or rehabilitation treatments. A carefully designed habitat monitoring program documenting temporal changes in vegetation and site conditions will indicate whether or not the habitat management objectives have been achieved. For habitat monitoring to be useful, information must be collected systematically and consistently so that comparisons can be made before and after the treatment. Recently, a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks and the Ministry of Forests has lead to the development of the Procedures for Environmental Monitoring in Range and Wildlife Habitat Management (Habitat Monitoring Committee, 1990). This manual provides a series of standard definitions, procedures and forms for collecting data on changes in vegetative cover resulting from timber removal, site rehabilitation, prescribed burning, planting, brushing or stand tending. Monitoring requirements for activities such as grazing, herbicide or fertilization application, and water level manipulation are also addressed. The manual includes guidelines for site selection and sampling design. A computerized database has been developed in conjunction with the manual. Information from the data forms can be entered into the Habitat Monitoring Data Base for storage, analysis and comparison with similar projects. INTRODUCTION Adaptive Management of Ecosystems A healthy ecosystem supports a diversity of wildlife by providing a diversity of habitats. Many ecosystems are adapted to periodic natural disturbances (such as wildfire, flood, etc.). However, the impacts of human activities in British Columbia over the past century and especially in recent decades is not only stressing these ecosystems, but in some areas of the province is leading to the loss of important wildlife habitats. 158 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Natural resource managers arc now coming to realize that it is not enough to manage individual species or parts of habitats in isolation from their ecological, social and economic contexts. The emerging concept of ecosystem management means integrating all these things over a range of temporal and spatial scales. This approach calls for continued improvement in our knowledge through long-term, interdisciplinary ecosystem research and development. (Salwasser, 1993) But ecosystems are complex and we cannot know all the answers with complete certainty. Management options that disrupt habitat will be chosen and decisions made now, whether or not we have a high degree of certainty about the outcome (Lertzman, 1993). Thus, to ensure sound management decisions are made, a continuing process of action based on planning, monitoring, evaluation and adjustment is required. This process is called adaptive management (Figure 1) and it is a crucial element of any ecosystem-based strategy (Holling, 1978) (Walters, 1986).  Figure 1.       The adaptive management process (Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, July 1993) Monitoring Monitoring is a cornerstone of adaptive ecosystem management (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 1993). Ecosystems can be considered at a wide variety of scales, depending on the variability and value of the resources and the dynamic processes to which they are subject. Different scales of 159 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation ecosystem management: require different scales of monitoring. Research is needed to understand ecological processes at all these scales and to guide development of management options. The greater the uncertainty in any given management option, the more detailed, research level monitoring is required. Operational monitoring, on the other hand, is appropriate for site level activities based on management options with a greater level of knowledge or certainty of the outcome. It is also an important component of the feedback loop in adaptive management, determining project success or failure and contributing to revised management goals for planning of future projects. To be effective both in terms of costs and data collection, those doing monitoring should "strive to achieve the greatest degree of collective efficiency such as using common guidelines and standards for integration of data from individual projects into a common regional data base." (Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team, 1993). STANDARD HABITAT MONITORING PROCEDURES The Procedures   for Habitat Monitoring Manual The Procedures for Environmental Monitoring in Range and Wildlife Habitat Management (Habitat Monitoring Committee, 1990) is a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment, Lands & Parks and the Ministry of Forests. Development of these procedures grew out of a concern that a better understanding was needed of the results of the range and wildlife habitat improvement programs the two Ministries have implemented over the past decade, and the secondary impacts of resource extraction and management. The Habitat Monitoring Committee, with members from both Ministries, was formed in 1985. The Committee's task was to develop a set of standardized procedures and data collection forms to ensure habitat monitoring in the province would be carried out consistently and the results comparable between projects. In 1990 the Committee produced the Procedures for Environmental Monitoring in Range and Wildlife Habitat Management (referred to as the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring from here on). Building on existing standards in the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (Luttmerding et al, 1990) and in the Ministry of Forests (B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lands, 1987), (ibid, 1988), (Trowbridge et al., 1989), this manual provides monitoring requirements for the most common habitat management techniques. The techniques described are listed in Table 1. 160 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation The manual contains a series of standard forms (EM1 through EM9) for collecting data on changes resulting from these management techniques. Various combinations of the forms are required depending on the technique being monitored. Table 2 provides examples of the forms required for a number of habitat management techniques. Note that the last three forms listed are not EM forms. These forms, described in Luttmerding et al. (1990), are optional but can be used when more details on soils, commercial tree species or wildlife responses to habitat manipulation are required. A more detailed matrix of reporting and monitoring forms is included in the manual to show how the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring dovetails with existing forms and reporting procedures in the two ministries. Site Selection It is rarely possible to monitor the entire area of a habitat treatment, unless it is exceptionally small. Therefore, a sampling strategy should be based on selecting sites that are ecologically representative of the area as a whole. Monitoring data from ecologically representative sites may then be generalized for the treatment area, thus lowering monitoring time and costs. (Bailey, 1991) In British Columbia, a hierarchical system is used to classify regional ecosystems (ecoregions), zonal ecosystems (biogeoclimatic units), and local ecosystems (biophysical habitat classes) (Demarchi, 1992). Site selection described in the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring is based on biophysical habitat classes or units. These are relatively homogeneous in topography, landform, present vegetation, and soils. Sampling is carried out in one or more of these habitat units within a treatment area. 161 Table 1. Habitat management techniques described in the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Sampling Design Two levels of sampling intensity are described in the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring. These descriptions are based on methodologies developed by the Ministry of Forests and Lands (1988) for range inventory. The minimum level, reconnaissance sampling, documents the average environmental and vegetative conditions. A single macroplot and associated microplots are established in a representative area of the habitat unit (Figure 2). When more detailed assessments are required to determine the effectiveness of a treatment over time, multiplet sampling is used. A transect or sample strip is randomly selected within a habitat unit and four circular macroplots are laid out along the strip (Figure 3). These macroplots are used for pre- and post-treatment monitoring. An important element of habitat monitoring that is often overlooked is the collection of pre- treatment data. The site and vegetation conditions existing prior to habitat manipulation is the baseline to which all subsequent monitoring data is compared. Furthermore, because the adaptive 162 Table 2. Habitat monitoring form requirements by habitat management technique Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation  Figure 2. Plot layout for reconnaissance sampling (Habitat Monitoring Committee, 1990)  Figure 3. Plot layout for multiplet sampling (Habitat Monitoring Committee, 1990) 163 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation management process is intrinsically a learning process, documenting changes in a particular habitat type may provide relevant information for making decisions on future projects in similar habitats. The Habitat Monitoring Data Base In 1991 the Habitat Monitoring Data Base was developed as a companion to the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring manual. This is a data system residing on British Columbia System Corporation's central VAX computer in Victoria. It is accessible from any Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks office in the province. Monitoring data collected on the EM data forms from habitat management projects all over the province are entered into this data base. To date, approximately 75 projects consisting of a total of almost 2,000 sites have been entered into the database. Simple analysis reports such as changes in vegetation composition and abundance, can be generated by project, by treatment type and by region (for example, see Thompson, 1993). The project manager is responsible for ensuring data is input to the Habitat Monitoring Data Base and that data entry is part of the project's monitoring objectives. Data Base Administrators (one from each ministry — the author is the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks' Habitat Monitoring Data Base Administrator) are responsible for arranging access to the data system and ensuring standards for data quality are maintained. Resource managers considering a habitat improvement project may wish to query the Habitat Monitoring Data Base during the planning phase of their project. Information on the response of similar habitat types to various management techniques can facilitate the planning/decision-making process and lead to a higher likelihood of success for the proposed project. Mine Reclamation and Habitat Monitoring Generally, there are two scenarios where the Procedures for Habitat Monitoring would be appropriate for use in monitoring mine reclamation sites: 1) reclamation projects where the management objective is to restore wildlife habitat that was present prior to mining activities (eg. seeding and planting of native forage species); and 2) mitigation for wildlife habitat loss due to mining activities (eg. ungulate winter range) through application of a particular habitat management technique (eg. prescribed fire, thinning, slashing). 164 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation What are the advantages to the mining industry for using these standard habitat monitoring procedures? The Procedures for Habitat Monitoring provides an opportunity to: 1) use existing procedures and data storage facilities; 2) access existing wildlife habitat improvement data for planning purposes; 3) achieve greater consistency between observers and between projects; 4) facilitate contract administration and quality control by reference to the Procedures for HabitatMonitoring', and, 5) begin building a province-wide data base on mine reclamation or rehabilitation projects for wildlife habitat. Summary Increasing pressures of resource development in British Columbia necessitate an adaptive approach to ecosystem management. Resource managers must evaluate the expected effects of management options, monitor the outcome and adjust management practices accordingly. The Procedures for Habitat Monitoring provides a practical, operational-level tool for adaptive management of wildlife habitat. By providing standard procedures for data collection it allows for more effective and comparable monitoring of habitat improvement projects around the province. REFERENCES Bailey, R.G. 1991. Design of ecological networks for monitoring global change. Environmental Conservation 18 (2): 173-175 B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lands. 1987. Range inventory manual, Range Section, Integrated Resources Branch, Victoria. B.C. Ministry of Forests and Lands. 1988. Forest inventory manual, Chapter 3. Inventory Branch, Victoria. Demarchi, D.A. 1992. Biophysical Habitat Classification in British Columbia: A System for mapping mountainous ecosystems, pp 39-46. In: Ingram, G.B. and M.R. Moss [Editors]. Landscape Approaches to Wildlife and Ecosystem Management. Proceedings of the Second Symposium of the Canadian Society for Landscape Ecology and Management: University of British Columbia, Man 1990. 267 pp. Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team. July 1993. Forest ecosystem management: an ecological, economic and social assessment. Report of the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team. 165 Proceedings of the 18th Annual British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium in Vernon, BC, 1994. The Technical and Research Committee on Reclamation Habitat Monitoring Committee. 1990. Procedures for environmental monitoring in range and wildlife habitat management. Draft edition version 4.1. British Columbia Ministry of Environment and British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. 196 pp. Holling, C.S. [Ed.]. 1978. Adaptive environmental assessment and management. John Wiley and Sons, New York. Lertzman, Ken. 1993. Biodiversity research in British Columbia: what should be done? In: Our Living Legacy: Proceedings of a Symposium on Biological Diversity. M.A. Fenger et al. [Editors], pp339-352. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, B.C. Luttmerding, H.A., D.A. Demarchi, E.G. Lea, D.V. Meidinger, and T. Void. 1990. Describing ecosystems in the field. MOE Manual 11. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, B.C. Salwasser, Hal. 1993. Ecosystem management. Paper presented at the Habitat Protection Annual General Meeting, April 21, 1993, Yellow Point. Integrated Management Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, B.C. Thompson, Carol. 1993. Analysis of habitat monitoring data (including Habitat Conservation Fund projects) from 1986 through 1991. Unpublished report. Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, B.C. Trowbridge, R. B. Hawkes, A. Macadam and J. Parminter. 1989. Field handbook for prescribed fire assessments in British Columbia; logging slash fuels. FRDA Handb. 001. Co-published by B.C. Ministry of For. and Lands, Victoria and Gov. of Can., -Can/B.C. Econ. and Regional Dev. Agreement. Victoria, 63pp. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1993. Eastside forest ecosystem health assessment. Volume 1: Executive Summary. Walters, C. 1986. Adaptive management of renewable resources. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., New York. 166

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